My sister started watching a PBS program called “Chasing Shackleton” where a group of adventurers follow the journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia in a small rescue boat altered for sailing using materials identical to those used in the original 1914-1916 voyage (with added safety features such as GPS so the little dingy does not get lost in the Southern Ocean). This program is full of new and old footage and stories, very exciting and inspirational!
Here are some amazing facts about Shackleton’s 1916 expedition:
- Ship name: Endurance; mission: To establish a base as far south as possible in the Weddell Sea; send one party east, another west, and the main party would cross the continent of Antarctica to McMurdo Sound. August 1, 1914 the ship left London.
- Sled dogs and one cat “Mrs. Chippy” (actually a male cat)
- Ship was trapped by sea ice January 19, 1915 and then crushed in the sea ice October 27, 1915
- Men dragged and then paddled small, 22-foot open boats to Elephant Island over treacherous terrain and seas, the first land they touched in over a year and a half
6 men sailed one of the small boats to South Georgia, 800 miles of the worst seas in the world, in hopes of convincing people at the whaling station to perform a rescue, reached South Georgia May 9, 1916
- It took 4 attempts to get through the sea ice around Elephant Island, but on August 30, 1916, Shackleton returned to the men at Elephant Island with a rescue ship
Shackleton returned to Europe, served in WWI, then set off in another polar expedition in 1921. At Grytviken, South Georgia, close to where the small boat landed years before, he died suddenly, and was buried there.
This short list does not do the expedition or Shackleton justice, I recommend you read the book “South” to get a better feel for the incredible struggle these men endured to survive.